Friday, December 22, 2017

Merry Christmas!

As has been my tradition since I started this site, my last post of the year is my online Christmas card that I send out to all my family and friends. And this year will be no different.

So without further adieu, here's to my asylum friends and family.

Merry Christmas and a VERY HAPPY New Year to the Asylum! 
Until next year...spiked egg nog for EVERYONE!!


Monday, November 20, 2017


Yes, in case you didn't guess by my title, we are now in Hawaii! Woo-HOO!!!! (I LOVE HAWAII!)

We flew to Oahu on the 15th and spent the first 3 days there, then we flew to Kona (on the Big Island) on the 18th. We will be here in Kona for a week, flying back to Oahu on Saturday, then back home to Santa Maria on Tuesday (a week from tomorrow) hoo!

As you can imagine, the weather is PERFECT! So far we haven't done anything big...just hanging out, driving around, and relaxing. Today we drive over to Hilo and from there go south to where the road ends (due to Kilauea, the lava spewing volcano these last 21 years or so). We will be renting electric mountain bikes and riding a 4 mile trail to where we park the bikes, then hike another mile or so and hopefully will be able to SEE the said spewing lava into the ocean! I will come back tonight or tomorrow morning and add some of those pictures to the post.

And so, without further adieu, here's my ongoing pictorial essay of our last few days in paradise!

 I love to look at my FOOD! This is corned beef hash and eggs with buttermilk pancakes and coconut syrup at Eggs and Things, Waikiki Beach....MMMMMMM!

 Soy glazed Butter-fish at Tikis bar and grill, Waikiki.

 No pictorial journal of Hawaii is complete without the iconic image of  Diamond Head.

 Jeannie and I on Waikiki beach with Diamond Head as our backdrop. Ahhhh...Hawaii!

 One of the most fabulous meals I've ever head...SOS at Uncle Bo's Pupu Bar and Grill, Honolulu. SOS consists of lobster, crab, shrimp, clams and scallops in the creamiest and tastiest bisque-sauce on the planet! I'm serious...if you're ever on Oahu, this meal is worth an Uber ride if you don't have a rental car (it's a good walk from Waikiki, over 2 miles from our hotel). Jeannie found it on Trip Advisor as it had fabulous's where locals go.

 Friday night fireworks at Hilton Beach (the Hale Koa military hotel is right next to the Hilton Village). We are sitting at the world famous Hale Koa Barefoot Bar (at the pool) where they happen to make the BEST Mai Tai's in the entire world (at least the best we've ever had thus far). they are wicked awesome AND wicked deadly! We've crawled back to our room more than once.

 We're on the Big Island now. This is a rather rare view of the mountain just above Kona (part of Mauna Loa as best I can figure). Typically it's covered by clouds already.

 As the day wears on the clouds are starting to form around the peak.

 Ahhh....the Kona home of Kona brewery (the beer is actually not brewed on the island but back on the mainland). This is their brewery/bar/grill. They have some fantastic beers!

My lunch, the shrimp-melt sandwich, with papaya Cole-slaw, and my choice of beer this day was an Almond Joy (a 50/50 mix of the Black Sand porter and their Koko brown ale). It actually has an aroma of an Almond Joy candy bar, and is just a wonderful creamy dark concoction of flavor!

It's now Tuesday morning. Yesterday we went up and over the "saddle highway" (not called that anymore, it USED to be a rather horrible and slow road and you weren't supposed to drive your rentals on it...but now it's a veritable yellow-brick-road!) to Hilo, then continued south to Kalapana where the road ends and the lava begins. We rented bikes and rode on the plowed lava 'dirt' road a few miles to the National Park boundary, locked them up and started hiking towards the hill. Just 2 weeks ago we would have kept riding and gotten to where the lava is pouring into the ocean...but it stopped doing that so now we go inland to find flowing lava. Here are some pics....
 Here's my bro-in-law (and Navy buddy) John on his "e-bike". The e-bikes had a few modes of 'pedal assist' and then full-on "put your feet on the pedal and twist the throttle" and go, without pedaling. This seemed to be the mode of choice. It looked very fun! (I was on a conventional mt bike, but not a big deal as it was only a few miles of dirt road).

 Johns wife Peggy on her e-bike, riding across the dozed road over the older flows. 

 And my wife Jeannie on her e-bike. She had a BLAST and I'm now thinking we should look into getting her a road-e-bike (I rode one a month ago and it was AMAZING!) 

 The bikes locked up and we are ready to hike!

 Into the lava we go! This USED to be an entire housing development 21 years ago, Kalapana Gardens. It was completely wiped out in the initial eruption/flows back in late 1986.

 This shot looking into the enormous lava flow shows where we needed to go to see flowing lava. It looks like a long was. I'd guess at least a mile out. And walking thru this is incredibly difficult. For one, there is zero flat, it's all lumpy, bumpy and cracks, blobs, mounds, etc. For two, IF you were to fall you'd end up in the ER getting your horrible gashes cleaned and stitched as all of this is like razor blades. I'll talk more about that (the ER) in a bit.
 Peggy and John in the lava. Here you can see better what the hiking terrain looks like.

 Jeannie on the lava-hike. It was actually pretty fun hiking on the dried lava...certainly there's nothing else like it on the planet. Just don't fall! She was amazing, staying right on my heels the entire hike!

And WE FOUND IT! Surface-flow LAVA! You can see the fresh flow as it's a lighter-gray color in contrast to the black of the older flow. The leading-edge is still molten (around 4000 degrees!) and was moving very slowly, AWESOME!!

A tiny finger of molten lava, looks like the back leg of a dog. A 4000 degree dog. We can't fathom 4000 degrees. At 5 to 6' away it was scorching and almost unbearable. Any closer than that and you'd be getting burned (seriously).

 As you're watching the gray 'crusted' lava suddenly a crack would appear and a new blob would ooze out at varying speeds...typically it had the consistency of something like a very thick batter you'd pour into a pan.

Jeannie about 6' away from a fresh blob. You can't imagine how hot it is where she's standing (especially her right side which is facing the lava). Here you can really see the extent of this lighter-colored current flow on the surface of the older flow.

Here we are with the oozing lava! You can see we are fairly close to where the hillside comes down to the flatter flow. Directly in the top middle of the pic you can see steam coming off the hillside..there is lava flowing down the mountain there (can't see it, mostly inside lava tubes). And teh green blob of life on the hillside directly above us was our distant target during our hike out...we were told head for the middle green...and here we are!

 Another blob oozes out of the crust! Watching lava flow just doesn't get old! You can also see on the bottom right the light glow of the cooling lava...any moment at any spot on the leading edge another blob could break thru.

My final lava pic. Here you can clearly see the fresh blob breaking out of a lightly cooled area. Even at the top of the pic you can see red blobs that break out and flow on top of its-self. There's no rhyme or reason as to how lava flows. It just goes wherever it wants.

And now for the rest of the story. It was a fabulous day to this point. John and Peggy had turned around not too far into the lava-field hike, as she wasn't really up on this sort of thing and was afraid she'd fall. So they went back to the bikes and were going to ride further up the road and play around, then head back and we'd meet them at the car. Right about here (with this final lava shot) my cell phone went off. It was John. Peggy had fallen over from her bike as she was stopping for a bathroom break and was hurt. So we headed back across the lava field at the best speed we could do (pretty much the same as when we came can't rush across this field of razor blades).

Just about the time we got back to the bikes (and were speculating/hoping she wasn't really hurt) I got a text from John...EMS had arrived and were loading her up...she had been hurt bad and couldn't get up off the dirt road. We had seen the flashing lights of the ambulance as we were heading back and wondered if that was for her. We got back to the car and turned in our bikes, and headed into Hilo to the hospital where they took Peggy. When we got there she was waiting for X ray. Not too much longer they did that, and then were just waiting for the Dr. to tell her what's wrong. It was bad. Broken hip. She needs they admitted her, and FINALLY gave her a room. John stayed with Peggy (she got a private room) and Jeannie and I headed back to Kona (about a 2 hour drive from the hospital). We got back to the room about 1:30am. I did stop at about 6500' in the "saddle" of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Saddle Road, turned off the car lights, and stepped outside to view the stars. OMG...never seen it SO DARK (no moon). It was flat out amazing! No wonder they put a bunch of observatories on the summit of  Mauna Kea! However it was pretty chilly...about 42 the car said (it was 70 back at sea-level in Kona later).

John called this morning, they are waiting for the hospital to schedule the surgery (hopefully today)...then she will likely spend a day or 2 there before they release her. URGH! Gosh  how suddenly a very fun day/vacation can turn. I guess it just shows you never know. to falling in the lava, while Jeannie and I were sitting in the Hilo ER waiting room (John was back with Peggy) a very nice couple came in, the girl's calf was all bandaged up with blood running down her leg from the bandage. They were out in the lava hiking to find a flow and she had fallen. Apparently her leg is gashed pretty bad, the fire dept (who keep people out there as this seems to happen quite frequently) bandaged it and told her to go to the ER. And here they are. They never made it to the flowing I showed them my pics and they were so happy to see I texted them a few of my shots...they are flying home to Fresno today. She was still back being cleaned/stitched when Jeannie and I left. do NOT want to fall on the lava. Or the road.

So now Jeannie and I will shuttle stuff to the hospital this morning...clothes, phone chargers, ipads, stuff like that. And then we will take things as they come in the following days. Poor Peggy...she certainly doesn't deserve this. She is the sweetest person on the PLANET! Life isn't fair for sure.

And that's how our amazing day in the lava field ended.


Update, Tuesday 11/21. Peggy had surgery to repair her broken hip (femur). They wheeled her out around noon, Jeannie and I got there around 12:30 and when they finally took her back for surgery we all went to lunch, got back just as she was coming out into recovery. The Dr. says it went well with no complications or issues. He is concerned with her traveling back to Virginia next Tuesday... he's NOT a fan of her sitting on an airplane that long. So John will be taking it day by day and remain as flexible as possible as to how / when to go home to Virginia.

I also have 2 more pictures to add from the drive over the saddle was a nicer view than yesterday.

The view of Mauna Loa volcano (of which the currently spewing Kilauea is part of) as seen from the top of the saddle road (about 6500' elevation). Both Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea are over 12,000' high. Mauna Loa is fascinating as it REALLY shows the gentle grade over a HUGE span of miles of the cone (being a "Shield volcano"). They say that if you follow the 2 volcanos all the way to the water, then keep following them under water to where they rise from the sea floor (which happened a millennia ago) they are taller than Mt Everest. That boggles the mind!

This is Volcano Park (not sure what it's all about, we stopped there and the building with teh flags was locked...I thought it might be some kind of a ranger station or something with info and such...not. But anyway, that is Mauna Kea behind it, which also goes up over 12,000'. It is also a shield volcano but is shaped wildly different than it's sister which is smooth and almost perfect in it's gentle cone-shape. I was hoping to drive up to the summit today but we left the hospital way too late and it was dark when we went over the saddle on the way back to Kona. I've been to the top years ago, pretty fascinating view for sure!

OK. that's all for today. Aloha (again!)